Getting your financial house in order is a must

Spotlight on Finance

— What about retirement planning? Your financial spring cleaning is also a good time to set up or review your retirement plan. Ask yourself if it still reflects the goals you’ve discussed with your family and if it aligns with your future needs and wants. Also review any estate plans or wills. If you don’t have anything in place, this is the time to do it. You want to ensure that you have full control of how your assets are distributed when you’re gone.

Finally, check your credit score. You can get a free report annually from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com. Make sure your reports are accurate and reflect your current loans and credit lines. And while you’re on the computer, take a few moments to change passwords and organize them. This will help keep your private information private.

Grin and bear it

If you weren’t tired enough after cleaning your house and yard this spring, chances are you will be after reviewing and bringing order to your finances. It’s a lot of work, time and effort, but it’s as important to securing your financial future as fixing a leaky roof is to protecting the stability of your house. And at the end of the day, getting your financial house in order will change your relationship with money, change your relationship with your family and put you on the path of financial independence.

Hugh Donlon is president of KeyBank’s Capital Region. He may be reached at either 518-257-8618 or hugh_donlon@keybank.com.

Identify and avoid these budget busters

Budget busters are like invasive species of weeds and grasses. As much as you think you can control or ignore them, they quickly overwhelm. The key is to identify and treat them before they become a problem.

The good news is that budget busters are pretty common and don’t vary much from person to person. So take a look at the following list to see if bad spending habits are creeping into your daily life. If they are, follow the tips to ensure they don’t become a problem.

  • Late fees. These fees add up fast but can be easily avoided. Look into automatic debit from your checking account for bill pay. By having payments directly withdrawn from your account, you won’t ever have to worry about a late fee again.
  • Impromptu spending. You don’t have to buy something just because it’s on the shelf in front of you. Go home, do some research and sleep on it. Make sure you can afford it and really need it.
  • Lack of an emergency fund. It is much easier to pay for new brakes or a water leak if you have an emergency fund. If you don’t have an emergency fund, start having automatic withdrawals from your paycheck put into a savings account. And don’t touch it. Out of sight, out of mind is very good when it comes to savings accounts, providing the account is automatically receiving regular funds.
  • Energy inefficiencies. Consider having an energy audit done on your home. It’s going to cost you money up front, but you will likely save money in the long run by making your home more efficient.
  • Well-intentioned giving. It’s nice to give. It’s important to give. But there are times when money is tight. Consider donating your time or services.
  • Holiday spending. Decorations, food and gifts add up quickly. Try to put a budget in place for all your entertainment and gift expenses. It’s easier to say no when you have a plan.
  • Coffee and lunches. Use your coffee maker every day and treat yourself once a week to that specialty coffee. A coffee out each day, seven days a week, can add up to $30 a week. Also, pack a lunch and bring it to work.
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